Every year, it comes too soon. The semester breezes past in an all too wonderful daze, and we find ourselves precipitously and terrifyingly in the midst of exams. And for hours upon days-- upon even more days-- we study. We lock ourselves in crowded study rooms teeming with anxiety and unease; we pass the time with junk food and coffee as we analyze old semester notes and compile them into study guides. And then, as swiftly as they first came, we take our exams, we shake our professors' hands half in gratitude and half in hopes of absorbing one last hint of positive karma, and we leave. The semester ends, and students make an exodus, back to their families and their homes. And for some, that's it-- at least for the next six months until the next round begins.
However, by my seventh time, finals week has become so much more than that. And after I graduate, this period of time, and all exam periods before, will remain a fond memory. Someday I will tell my children about college, and I will undoubtedly tell them about finals week. It has become an integral part of my college experience and rightfully deserves a special place in my memory. And, certainly, I will tell my children stories of what I learned in college--stories regarding the powers of perseverance and drive. I will tell them of the A that I earned on my final in organic chemistry. Likewise, I will tell them of lessons I learned from ill preparedness, most notably in Calculus III. I will tell them that finals week--college as a whole--and everything in life becomes a learning experience. It all happens, and it all shapes who we eventually become.
But when my children really want to hear stories from finals week, the first story (of many) I will tell them: the time I streaked through the Undergraduate Library.
Credit: UNC Reese News Lab
Every semester, the University of North Carolina undergraduate community participates in a longstanding tradition during finals week. At midnight, on the evening before the first day of exams, a group of fearless students make their way up to the eighth floor corner room of Davis library together. They do so while crowds of bystanders leave behind their books and make their way to the center atrium, in obvious preparation of the event soon to come. The bold crowd now on the top floor graciously removes their clothing, and they run. They run wild and naked, along the floors of the library, through the center atrium across a pathway paved by the roaring student body. Some wear costumes; some paint their body and face to remain anonymous; and some valiantly and fully embrace their primal nudity. The event culminates in the atrium of the second library. Both groups-- the naked and the clothed--gather, embrace arms, and sing in unison our alma mater "Hark the Sound." After the echoes of the final line "Go to Hell Duke" dissipate, the crowds disperse, everyone returning to studying and to an oncoming week of stress. It is a powerful and touching Carolina moment. And in that moment, in the brilliant chills felt when we hear that song, in the laughter and the screams and the Red Bull buzzes fueling the chorus, nothing else really matters.
I want my kids to know this. I want them to know that these moments will exist throughout their lives. And I want them to take part. I want them to know that the friend of mine who convinced me to streak has now become one of my best friends. And I really want them to see that finals week is filled with these moments. It is not just the streaking. These are the weeks when late nights in the library led to long walks through the empty quiet moonlit quad, talking through not only our pre exam anxieties but our relationships, our worries of the future, and our thoughts on the world. These are the times when--despite cramming our minds with virtually useless information all the while--our thoughts became most clear as we connected over unnecessary late night food and necessary procrastination. These are the memories we made as we helped each other along the roller coaster ups and downs of this with food, laughter, friendship, and love. Because many of those people with whom I first agonized over finals have now become some of my closest friends. And many of those memories I have of my first late night study sessions-- and the wild happenings that countered hours of boredom--are now some of those moments I will always keep from college. These are my stories. I want my children to know that finals week is an opportunity for growing up alongside of those who matter. It is a time for crafting wild stories. And memories.
And so here's to the time we dropped everything--inhibitions, worries, rationales, and our clothing --and took part in the campus tradition of streaking through the undergraduate libraries. In that moment, whether in taking the time to watch or to participate, we stood together. And in the circle of naked students, arms held tightly and swaying proudly in unison as echoes of the alma mater cascaded through the halls, bonds were formed. Memories were imprinted in that special place our heart reserves for all things Carolina. Friendships were solidified over procrastination, a touch of insanity, and a mutual affection for this fine University.
And we still passed our classes.